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49ers defensive line: Better, worse, or same in 2017?

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A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2016 roster. Other positions: QB | RBWR | TEOT | OG | C | LB | CB | S

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2017, with the new front office and coaching staff bringing numerous changes. It is going to take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was incredibly active in free agency, and followed that with plenty of work in the 2017 NFL Draft.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

Today, we move on to the defensive line.

Defensive line changes, 2016-to-2017

Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
DeForest Buckner Arik Armstead Arik Armstead DeForest Buckner
Arik Armstead DeForest Buckner Mike Purcell Quinton Dial
Solomon Thomas Quinton Dial Quinton Dial Tony Jerod-Eddie
Earl Mitchell Glenn Dorsey DeForest Buckner Mike Purcell
Elvis Dumervil Mike Purcell Glenn Dorsey Glenn Dorsey
Aaron Lynch Ronald Blair Tony Jerod-Eddie Ronald Blair
Tank Carradine Tony Jerod-Eddie Ronald Blair Chris Jones
Quinton Dial Tank Carradine Taylor Hart Zach Moore
Chris Jones Garrison Smith N/A Arik Armstead (IR)
Ronald Blair Darren Lake N/A N/A
D.J. Jones B.J. McBryde N/A N/A
Pita Taumoepenu Demetrius Cherry N/A N/A
Noble Nwachukwu N/A N/A N/A

We talked on Wednesday about the 49ers switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The 49ers will use more defensive linemen in their base defense, but we’ll continue to see plenty of four down linemen looks in the sub-packages.

One of the big differences this year will be the use of Aaron Lynch and Tank Carradine as purely hand-in-the-dirt defensive linemen, as opposed to base OLBs and nickel ends. Lynch in particular has played a lot of end in the nickel, but he is competing with Arik Armstead for the LEO role, one of the more notable changes from last year.

In switching out of the 3-4, we won’t see the traditional nose tackle, but there will still be a 4-3 version of the nose tackle. Earl Mitchell is the most notable addition, but the team also drafted a potential sixth-round sleeper in D.J. Jones. Quinton Dial will be competing with the two of them, and if Jones emerges in training camp and the preseason, Dial could find himself on the wrong side of the bubble. Dial brings versatility, but these two additions coupled with the selection of Solomon Thomas leave less and less room for incumbent players.

And of course, the most recent addition to the line could prove one of the most productive. Elvis Dumervil dealt with an Achilles injury the past two seasons, but believes he is in a position to bounce back in a big way. He will likely be primarily a nickel edge rusher, and if he gets anywhere remotely close to his 2014 season when he had 17 sacks, that would be a monstrous addition to the line. If healthy and still capable, Dumervil could end up being the 49ers best pickup this offseason.

Every position requires some patience to see where things stand, but it’s pretty easy to get excited about the 49ers defensive line. It’s mostly potential for the time being, but there is considerable upside to the group.

Poll

Are the 49ers better, worse, or the same along the defensive line in 2017 as compared to 2016?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Better
    (1062 votes)
  • 0%
    Worse
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Same
    (14 votes)
1082 votes total Vote Now